The immense popularity of comics-based film can be attributed to a lot of different factors. Everybody loves heroes, and something about the hero's journey manages to really resonate with audiences, but there's also a large degree of spectacle that goes into the best superhero films that makes almost every single one of them an event unto themselves. No one is really proving the viability and longevity of comics-based films like Marvel Studios, and it's about to do something this August that many comic book fans have been waiting a long time for.
Marvel is taking space-based comics and going cosmic with them.
James Gunn's Guardians of the Galaxy is making a big splash with the release of its first full-length trailer, and the scope that it appears to be aiming for is pretty massive. As a result, this film has the unique possibility of being rather transformative for the entire "genre" of comic book cinema, and if it works creatively and commercially, it may be just the shot in the arm that comic book movies need to ensure their longevity for the foreseeable future. The existence of a movie like Guardians, taking place in the same shared cinematic universe as The Avengers:, makes a few new elements clear, and may change the landscape of comics-based film in the following ways:
The Universe Is Now the Star, More Than Ever
Come August, if Guardians proves to be successful, Marvel is put in a great new position of security going forward. Guardians will basically be the first new venture of the studio that will be completely thematically disconnected from Tony Stark's superheroic world of armored suits, Thunder Gods, and Supersoldiers, and its success can prove that the strength of the Marvel brand on its own in an entirely new way. The success of Guardians could likely make it rest a bit easier about the possibilities for the forthcoming Ant-Man film, but more importantly it could also open the floodgates for other even lesser known characters to get their own adaptations.
Of course, some things will have to remain the same: Marvel shouldn't take any of its success as a sign that it would be okay to cut any corners on production, particularly where the creativity and core mythology is concerned. Its superhero films and Guardians both look to have the same signature attention to the source material's detail that has become something of a hallmark for the studio, and if anything, a successful Guardians can prove that the studio can continue to be confident in the caliber of the filmmakers, and the original material that helps to spawn these films in the first place.
The Universe Can Stop Relying on The Avengers... at Least a Little Bit
Like the comics, Guardians of the Galaxy could prove to be an example of a film within the established shared Marvel universe that doesn't necessarily have to be paid off in a big crossover with the Avengers. By creating solid franchises within the same universe, but without an overt connection to the existing superhero team, Marvel Studios is positioning itself to create an entirely new payoff to the core concepts introduced in this film if it continues to develop this more space-faring subgenre. Of course, there always exists the possibility of some kind of grand crossover and/or team-up between the Guardians and the Avengers, but it wouldn't have to rely on that.
Maybe Guardians could be a sign that it's okay to introduce a team like the Inhumans first, which would help to even further diversify the kind of cross-genre content that could make the Marvel Cinematic Universe a very diverse place for a wide range of different kinds of stories. In the end, it's probably best that Guardians would cultivate more comparisons to Star Wars than comparisons to The Avengers. While both of those films were extremely successful, Star Wars definitely has a far stronger reputation for fundamentally changing the landscape in Hollywood. If that's what Marvel is aiming for with Guardians, then more power to them.
Comics-Based Film Can Go Cosmic... and Stay There
Guardians of the Galaxy is a comic book series with an enormous scale, and it looks like that scale will be well represented if the first trailer is any indication. By potentially taking some of the built-in Avengers audience with them on a ride across the stars, a whole new set of possibilities within the universe can be introduced to the audience, which can potentially up the ante even more on their forthcoming blockbusters. Guardians has a chance to be very educational about what's possible within the realm of the Marvel cinematic universe, and audiences may see traces of that in forthcoming films including Avengers: Age of Ultron. More often than not, superhero conventions and high concept science fiction had to be largely separated, but Guardians is in a unique position since it has a chance to unify them more than ever, and may help to give rise to an entirely new subgenre within comics-based film.
Beyond this, though, the success of Guardians, depending on exactly how successful it is, can be a potential sign to other studios about how far into high concept sci-fi comic book films can go. Since all the signs seem very likely that Warner Bros. will be seeking to create its own shared cinematic DC universe, Warner Bros. is likely paying attention to how Guardians will perform, since its success can perhaps be a saving grace for Warner Bros. While Warner tried and failed to make a space opera superhero film in 2011 with Green Lantern, the success of Guardians can show that the world of Hal Jordan could be revisited, which may prove to be consequential for the future of DC Comics film after we get a Justice League film of some kind.
Now, is the writing on the wall for Guardians to be a transformative comics-based film? Not necessarily, but it's certainly possible. It all depends on how the audience will respond to it this coming August. Either way, the experience certainly looks like it's trying to be memorable, and if some of these side effects come to pass, then the audience will ultimately win out the most. There's certainly nothing wrong with hoping that the film will help to refresh the landscape a bit, but if it doesn't, I'll still be happy to walk into a theater and see an ornery raccoon kick some ass with a machine gun.
I mean, who wouldn't?
Thanks for reading Comics on Film this week, be sure to come back next week for a new edition!
Chris Clow is a geek. He is a comic book expert and former retailer, and freelance contributor to GeekNation.com, The Huffington Post, and Batman-On-Film.com. You can find his weekly piece Comics on Film every Wednesday right here at Movies.com. Check out his blog, and follow along on Twitter @ChrisClow.
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